Mature Adults You�re only as old as you feel Special Section - The first in a four week installment

Published on Thu, Feb 5, 2004
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Mature Adults
You�re only as old as you feel
Special Section - The first in a four week installment

It�s never too late to get in shape

Part 1 of 2
Think you�re too out of shape to get fit? Or too old? If so, you�re wrong. No matter what your fitness level or age, it�s never too late to get in better shape. Studies show that physical activity benefits everyone, so even if you�ve never exercised before, you can still reap the rewards of a regular fitness routine.

Before beginning any exercise program, see your doctor, especially if you have chronic health problems or are at risk for any, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Next, determine your fitness goals. Even a modest fitness program can help you lose weight, improve your strength or muscle tone or simply increase your energy level. It�s important to set realistic objectives, so you don�t immediately handicap your efforts with unattainable goals.

Getting some professional advice on tailoring your fitness program to meet your objectives is a good idea. Many health clubs have personal trainers or fitness professionals who can help design a regimen for you. To find a health club near you, visit www.healthclubs.com.

If you plan to work out at home, check out reputable references, such as the �Smart Exercise Guide� (downloadable at www.lifefitness.com/hom_edu_main.asp) or the Get Fit section of the American Council on Exercise�s web site (www.acefitness.org/getfit/index.cfm). You can also consult fitness books.

An effective fitness program includes cardiovascular activities � such as bicycling, running or swimming � as well as strength training and flexibility exercises.

Set up an exercise schedule that�s realistic given your current activity level and time commitments. If you�ve never had a regular workout routine, begin slowly so your body can adjust and you won't feel overwhelmed. Don�t try to hit the gym or tennis court for an hour every day; starting with 20 minutes a day, three days a week, might be more manageable. Also, you may want to begin with cardio and stretching and add strength training later. Whatever physical activities or exercises you choose, take it slow and increase the intensity or duration over time.

Vary your routine so you don�t get bored and so your body doesn�t become too accustomed to the same exercise. Run on a treadmill one day, strength train the next day and go swimming the day after that. Don�t forget that even everyday activities such as gardening or walking the dog provide myriad opportunities for burning calories and improving strength and muscle tone.

Staying motivated to exercise regularly isn�t always easy, even for dedicated fitness enthusiasts.

Choosing physical activities you enjoy is one of the easiest ways to keep motivated and stick with a routine. Another way to stay motivated is to keep track of your progress. Record your workout stats in an informal exercise diary. Overtime, notice how much you�ve increased your cardio machine's intensity level, how much more weight you can lift or how many more repetitions you can do. Remember that results take time, so don�t get discouraged if you�re not seeing big advances immediately.

(Next week: We�ll head to the Blaine Senior Center, where individuals are working out and exploring the many other opportunities available.)

Retiring comfortably, with plenty of time

America's attitude towards retirement is changing. A recent survey of 1,000 Americans by MDRT, an international association of financial professionals, shows a cultural shift in retirement attitudes. Among Americans still in the workforce, 73 percent identify themselves as most responsible for their retirement care, compared to only 58 percent of retirees.

This increase in personal responsibility is reflected in Americans� attitudes towards retirement savings options. More than three in four retirees expressed confidence in the Social Security system, while among non-retirees � who are going to need it further in the future � that number is only 43 percent. In fact, almost a third of Americans say their top retirement concern is the failure of Social Security. Two-thirds of working Americans place their fiscal faith in their 401(k) plans, versus only 31 percent of current retirees.

According to Phil Harriman, a financial planner with MDRT, Americans are moving in the right direction. �The financial environment of the last few years has been hard for many, but it�s also taught future retirees to be more personally responsible in planning their investments.� Harriman suggests some ways you can be sure your retirement funds are waiting for you when the time comes:
� Start early. If you haven�t begun your retirement planning yet, now is the time. Half of all retirees say they wish they�d started planning earlier.
� Know your needs. Identify your retirement goals and concerns and find a financial advisor to help you create an individualized retirement plan that directly addresses those concerns and moves you toward those goals.
� Stay involved. For the most part, the days of planned pensions and gold watches are over. Today's retirement planning is a hands-on process. Work with your advisor to ensure your retirement investments are adaptable in a changing and often unpredictable economy.
� Answer opportunity�s knock. Don�t turn down free money. The benefits of 401(k) plans and similar instruments, such as tax savings and employer matching, can over the course of your working life add up to a sizeable nest egg.